My wife and I have been together for over 25 years. We have raised two exceptional daughters. We started our relationship as friends and have always been best friends. Our marriage was as strong as any marriage could be. We trusted each other completely.
My world, as I had known it, ended when during a marital argument, my wife choked out, “I had an affair for several months seven years ago.” It was as if I was hit by a fast moving truck. The shock was overwhelming, the pain seared through my body. How could this be true? How could she have had this secret life with another man? My mind and body went into a protective mode. I could not sleep or eat or think of anything else. Then my wife added, “We didn’t go anywhere, no flowers or dinners or movies. I just went to his office once each week or so for three or four months for sex. I didn’t love him, but I wanted him to love me.” She told me it wasn’t about us. She loved me and wanted to stay with me. She just thought she needed a second life.
This is where I wish I had known about the seven stages of grief.* I was in Stage One….Shock and Denial…..numbed disbelief. I could not believe that this person who I knew so well could have engaged in any affair but especially this type of affair. It seemed so mechanical and robotic. I kept thinking that this is not who my wife really is.
The shock was replaced by unbearable pain. I ruminated every hour of the day and the hours I laid awake at night over what she had done with this person. How could I not have known? How could she have deceived me so completely?
I had given up drinking hard liquor several years ago, as it often made me irritable, but I did drink wine. The moment I was hit with this shock, I stopped consumption of all alcohol. My mind and body needed to heal unimpeded by anything that dulled my senses. I had incredible feelings of self-doubt. I felt that I was no longer a man. I was weak. I must have been a poor father and a poor husband. My self confidence was at rock bottom. At work, I was a zombie. The only thought that made me determined to continue was that I must not let this impact my children.
Stage three, Anger, came in like a bull. How could she do this to me and the children? How could she risk our family? Who was this person? What had she done? Why?
I suggested couples therapy. In therapy, my wife said that her relationship with a “helping professional” wasn’t that good for her, that it was very awkward, and that she still paid his therapy fee. To her credit, she came to the realization that he was using her and really didn’t care about her. She stopped seeing him. Knowing a little about transference and counter-transference in the therapeutic setting, I was actually quite relieved. Unfortunately, I also continued to suffer terribly.
In search of answers to how this could happen to a woman as intelligent, thoughtful, faithful, and honorable as my wife, I did some research. I began corresponding with three TELL responders who advised me, admonished me and encouraged me.
I now have an understanding of what happened. I now understand that my wife did not have an “affair,”a very big step. She was groomed, manipulated, and abused by someone in a position of trust and authority. The most insidious part of the abuse was that he got her to believe that it was her fault, that it was her idea, and that it was because of her desires.
She has been consumed with shame and guilt and unable to express her thoughts and feelings over what took place. Thanks to therapy, my love for my wife, and support from TELL, I have been able to move pretty much out of the Anger phase, although I float in and out.
Although my emotions sometime resist the notion that it is possible to groom and manipulate a person into surrendering her body to a medical practitioner, I have come to accept that it can and does happen. I have now entered Phase four, Sadness, which includes depression and loneliness. I am sad because my wife had a secret physical and emotional relationship with another man while married to me. I know...manipulation...but never-the-less, it did occur. I am grieving the loss of trust and innocence. When I look at my wife, I sometimes see a different person. I love her and will stay with her, but we will have to build a new marriage based on the strengths of our past.
I understand that it takes a long time to heal from these situations. It has now been seven months. Seven months ago, I never would have believed that I would feel as I do today. And as I enter the beginnings of the next phase, Phase Five, “The Upward Turn,” now always conscious that we go in and out of phases, backwards and forward, I am noticing that my life is becoming a little more calm. I no longer have the surges of anxiety, and I no longer ruminate. Some say the sadness can last for several months. I can live with that because I love my wife very much, and I owe her everything I can do to reconstruct a solid, loving, and trusting marriage.
What lies ahead? Acceptance and Hopeand still more pain. But I have come so far. I never thought that I would have the strength to live through this, but as Churchill said, “If you are going through Hell, keep going.”
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